Whale watching in Tofino is one of the most original, popular activities in Tofino and is known for drawing in a lot of tourists and visitors to the area over the years. There are many whale watching tours available in Tofino and on most of them you will not only come up close to humpback and grey whales but are likely to spot sea otters, seals, a number of bird varieties including the resident bald eagle. Orcas and porpoise are also spotted on occasion during the 2-3 hour whaling tour.
The Pacific grey whales spotted in Tofino are the most celebrated of these massive mammals making their way to and from Tofino year after year. An estimated 20,000 grey whales migrate every year to Vancouver Island from Mexico’s Baja Peninsula’s lagoons where these migrating whales breed and birth. The 16-22,500 km roundtrip trek is one of the longest migrations of any mammal. From June-October many migrating grey whales stop along the coast of Vancouver Island to feed and some do not travel any further north to the delight of many Vancouver Island residents and visiting tourists. The migrating grey whales join resident grey whales, orcas, humpbacks and the occasional minke all of which can be seen in the Pacific Northwest waters any time of year off of Vancouver Island’s west coast.
The Pacific grey whales have twice been hunted and scavenged upon to near extinction until 1947 when the International Whaling Commission made the greys a fully protected species. Since then, the population has recovered significantly. The Nuu chah nulth tribe of Tofino were among the first to hunt and scavenge upon these massive creatures. This would have taken immense skill, planning and courage to head out on cedar canoes with handcrafted harpoons as their weapon of choice.
Two types of orca (transients and residents) live near the north western coast stretching from Washington to Alaska. The social habits, diet and range of these two types differ even though they inhabit the same waters. Transient orcas are known for feeding on mammals such as porpoises and seals according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration while the resident orcas are known to mainly feed on fish.
Humpback whales are well-known for their multifaceted vocalizations and they are also acrobatic. Last summer, a group of fisherman off the coast of Tofino happened upon a group of humpbacks playing when one actually sprung completely out of the water just meters away from their boat! They breach the water often with antics ranging from pectoral slapping, lunge-feeding and tail-lobbing which is always captivating for viewers. Humpback whales average 12-15 meters in length and usually weigh 30-45 tonnes. Back in 1994, a humpback sighting was noted once in Clayoquot Sound and was incredibly rare. Since then, sightings have increased and in the summer months of Tofino now, humpbacks are sighted almost daily.
Because Tofino not only values but protects and preserves the natural beauty that encompasses it, wildlife is able flourish in abundance from land to sea making Tofino an ideal location to spot orca whales, humpback whales, the once endangered grey whale and even minke whales. Whether you are looking to see some of the earth’s most massive mammals up close or from the shore, visit Tofino and you will not likely leave disappointed. Not only are you almost guaranteed to see a whale on your whale watching tour, but you are bound to see a number of other wildlife not only limited to water, but on land and in the air as well. Tofino is one of the most best-kept summer destination secrets in nature with gorgeous landscapes, breathtaking scenery and some of the most unique botanical and wildlife some people will ever see.
Check Discover Vancouver Island’s whale page or more in depth knowledge on Vancouver Island whales.